This is the story of one woman from Cameroon. One story, even though at the end of the book the co-writer Ursula Krebs, admits that some other elements are added to the story to show the predicament of women in Cameroon. I would have thought the story of Rosaline Massado as it is is strong enough to write it down and publish it.

The story takes us back to the sixties of last century, Rosaline is born around the end of the Second World War (Cameroon was connected to the warring parties!). One day her father tells her that he has decided she will get married to Paul. Paul is a son to a very good friend of Rosaline’s father. Paul lives in Yaoundé, the capital city. The name of this town conjures up thoughts of modernity and advancement and prosperity. 

We see the struggle to get official papers to live in another town, the ever present nearness of relatives, the unknown feature of privacy. We are introduced to the youngest wife of Rosaline’s father, her name is Catherine. Rosaline and Catherine have a good relationship. 

The marriage takes place in the capital city, contary to local custom. Rosaline and Paul, who are both christians, think of a wedding in a christian style, but the tradition dictates differently. Finally the couple reches the capital city. Life there is a shock to Rosaline. The young couple lives in the very same house as the patron of Paul and his wives. There is hardly any space, nor a place of their own, except for one small bedroom, that doubles as a house.

A boy is born: Emmanuel. Half a year later mother and son travel to the ancestral village. During one of the first nights Emmanuel dies. What is the cause? Is it vampirism ? Are the ancestors involved? A messenger is sent to Paul, but he does not turn up. Finally Rosaline travels back to Yaoundé, in the company of the patron of Paul. 

A second son is born, a gift of God: Dieudonné. The boy falls ill and a journey from clinic to hospital to ancestral village for a ritual starts. But all to no avail: this boy dies as well. As the father of Paul has passed away recently, Paul decides to stay in his village and to take up trading. 

One day Rosalinde has a chance meeting with a man, this causes a furore with her inlaws. Her own parents support her pregnant daughter Rosalinde, a miscarriage follows and Rosalinde decides to return to her parents. 

In the end Rosaline is married to a traditional herbal healer, she is his fourth wife. Getting a place in this household is no mean feat. We read about the struggles and the competition, not just for the bed of the master of the house, but a struggle for a place in the family as well. 

The story of this woman (her real name is not Rosaline) is a strong story, filled with relationship and traditions and duties to the living and the dead. I got the impression that people have to look constantly over their shoulder to see how the past catches up with them, the past filled with ancestors. It stiffles their endeavours, but it also gives strength in a changing society. 

Rosaline Massado – Komm, zünde meine Lampe an – 2003


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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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